The EEOC May Investigate Charges of Discrimination by Undocumented Immigrants

Individuals who do not have work authorization because of their immigration status have certain rights under the labor laws, even though an employer may lawfully terminate their employment.  In EEOC v. Maritime Autowash, a worker filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging national origin discrimination under Title VII against his employer, a carwash company in Maryland.  He alleged that the employer hired several “Hispanic” workers, and then subjected those workers to discriminatory working conditions.  He claimed that the company fired all the workers after they complained about the unequal treatment.  However, the worker who filed the charge lacked work authorization.  When the EEOC attempted to investigate the charges, the company refused to provide some of the requested information.  The EEOC was forced to go to court to enforce its subpoena.
The Court held that the EEOC had authority to investigate and subpoena the employer based on the charges, even though the employee had no legal authorization to work.  The Court declined to decide whether the charge filed by the undocumented worker had merit, stating that the pre-investigation stage was too early for such a decision.

While this particular decision doesn’t go as far as we would like, it takes an important step in confirming that employers cannot flout the law by subjecting undocumented workers to discriminatory treatment under Title VII—such employers will be subject to investigation and charges of unlawful retaliation discrimination.

For any questions, contact your labor law counsel.

By Xochitl Lopez | June 3, 2016

Legal Developments